Thursday, September 15, 2011

The NBA's Top Five Up-and-Coming Duos #3: Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins

Tyreke Evans won the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Award after recording a rare 20-5-5 rookie season with a style of player similar to LeBron James.  He was 20 years old.  Sacramento Kings fans finally had something to be excited about again. 

But after an injury-riddled 2011 season that saw his production decrease across the board, Evans has become encapsulated in question marks and doubt.  A leg injury shackled Evans and disallowed Kings fans from watching him set up defenders with tricky ball-handling before puissantly driving to the basket with off-balance defenders rolling off him.  But can you blame Tyreke?  If he couldn't push off the leg, how is he supposed to repeat what he did in his rookie year, especially with defenses knowing what they're dealing with? 
Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are Sacramento's future. 

It's more reasonable to use Reke's 2010 season to predict where he'll end up.  A 26.2 USG% with an individual offensive rating of 107 is actually pretty good for a rookie with a weak jumper.  Evans should be slotted at shooting guard and used as a combo guard alongside a pure floor-general who can take the ball out of his hands and make him more unpredictable.  Rookie year stats aside, he isn't LeBron, and having five pairs of eyes on him every time down court is going to wear the kid out- not something you want to do to a young guy who has had leg injuries.  With complete health and a full 2012 season, Evans should go back to being a 20-5-5- threat with an improved jumper, especially if DeMarcus Cousins can help free him.

Likewise, Cousins should benefit from A.) experience, and B.) having a creative force like Evans healthy for more than 57 games.  Cousins had a very Shawn Kemp-like year as a rookie, and I'm not talking about the monster jams or the awesome '90s high-top fade (anything to put some Reign Man Dunks up).  I'm talking about being fifth in the NBA in total turnovers and first in total fouls.  That's pretty bad, especially considering he played only 28.5 minutes per game.

But he's big and skilled and talented; he's got good passing and ball-handling skills for a player with such an elephantine frame.  Although he was a poor defender and average shot-blocker in his rookie year, he still sported an excellent defensive rebound rate.  Efficiency and playing within himself weren't things he focused on in year one, but hopefully some experience will remedy those problems.

TyWreck and Demo have a chance to grow into a devastating small/big combo.  We could be looking at a future top-5ish small maturing with a future top-5ish big, a classic core build that could make Sacramento a power in the West again.       

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